No, of course you don’t. I wouldn’t think that you would know the man looking out from a grainy ancient photocopied image, but if you do… I’d love to talk with you as I have a bit of a mystery on my hands.
This is Captain Frank F. Crenshaw, my great-grandfather. I always knew that he was heroic in battle during the Philippines Insurrection; a fallout from the Spanish American War, in which he was gravely wounded as he lead his men against an ambush attack. He eventually died from his wounds.
I always knew that he was buried in a historic cemetery in the west Georgia city of LaGrange about an hour south from where I live now. I’ve driven passed this cemetery for years, always vowing to stop one day to find his grave.
And that’s exactly what my husband and I decided to do one Sunday afternoon last summer. I just knew his was one of the old historic graves with the elaborate decorative headstones. No problem—I’d find it right off the bat….
Two hours later, having wandered all over an old historic cemetery, in the heat of day on a hot summer afternoon, watching for copperhead snakes hiding amongst the rubble of an old cemetery, and sweating like a dog…I was frustrated like nobody’s business. “Where in the heck is he?” I lament to my husband. Capt. Crenshaw was nowhere to be found. Ugh!
He had come from a rather well to do family of the area. He had received a war hero’s funeral but as to where his grave was currently located was suddenly a huge mystery. This made absolutely no sense. “I will follow up tomorrow with a call to the city, to the county, to someone who knows this cemetery!” I declare to my husband once we get back in the car headed home.
I called Dad once I got home. This is his grandfather, his mother’s father. He had no idea as to why I couldn’t find the grave and was not as up in arms over the ordeal as I was—and that may have to do with the fact that he never knew the man. I never knew the man either, but you didn’t see that stopping me! I was now bound and determined to find him!!
I called my dad’s cousin, his 88 year old cousin, who is also a grandson to this war veteran. This cousin is also a bit of the remaining family’s resident historian. He too was stumped to the lack of a grave. But I was getting the feeling there was more to be known about the other side, this long lost soldier’s wife’s side of the family than his—-which I’m sure is due in part to the fact that he died at such a young age and she went on, albeit it as a widow for the rest of her life, to live a long life well into old age.
This actually all started really a few weekends prior as I was accompanying my husband while he was on a quest looking for some recreational property as an investment thought. We were in the vicinity of the small middle Georgia town in which my grandmother was born and raised. I talked my husband into to driving to the town so I could find the city cemetery and look for the Crenshaw family plot.
I call Dad on my cell phone and he tells me where the cemetery is located—-sure enough we find it. The town is so small, that finding a city cemetery is not too hard as it just can’t be missed. I bound out of the car and within 2 minutes, I spot the Crenshaw’s— my great-grandmother is buried here but her war hero husband is buried in LaGrange—“that’s odd” I muse but I’m so taken with this moment of lineage discovery that I simply file that thought away for later.
My great aunt and her husband, my great uncle and his wife, another great uncle who died as a child, plus their mom, my great-grandmother are all here. I take pictures of the graves and markers while feeling a sense of melancholy resignation. History, family and mystery all buried in the ground before me….some of whom I knew and others I had never known…and yet these people were connected to me, as I was to them—and that connection is in part as to who I am to this day. Funny how that all works.
Now lets fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. I had let the whole grave marker search fall by the wayside during the winter months as it seems other things just took over life. I’d not thought much of it at all until a couple of weeks ago. I had actually stumbled upon a number for the Troup Co Clerk of Courts which prompted me to call inquiring as to how I could go about locating information about burial sites in the city cemetery. I was given a number to the city cemetery which I immediately called.
The man who answered probably regrets to this day having answered the phone after I finish my story. However he kindly takes my name and number and tells me he’ll “do a little research” and will call me back the next day. A week passes with no word. I give it another go calling the cemetery office. This time I get a machine. I briefly recap my story, leaving my name and number. Within just a few minutes the phone rings. “Mrs. Cook, I apologize for not calling you back, but I’ve been doing a little research. It seems your great-grandfather is indeed buried here, but…” long pause … “he doesn’t seem to have a marker.” “What!!” I practically scream. “Well, for some reason, the family didn’t provide a marker. Perhaps they were not in a position to do so.” “Oh no sir, they could afford it if that’s what you mean.”
He proceeds to give me another number to the city archive museum of which I immediately call and, once again, I leave a message. I get a call from the city historian–a retired history teacher of course. I give him my story and he basically reiterates the story I know. He has some old county local Domesday tome complete with deaths and burials. Sure enough, Capt. Crenshaw is there, or so states the book of books, but as to exactly where, well that’s still up for discussion. The million dollar question of the hour is– where is he and secondly– why no marker– given his astonishing story…
And speaking of, here is his story…
My great grandfather, Capt. Frank Frost Crenshaw severed in the 28th Infantry, A Company. He was a resident of LaGrange, Georgia. He was first stationed in Guantanamo, Cuba, fighting in the Spanish American War, with the rank of First Lt. He was a member of Ray’s Immunes; a regiment of southern men chosen specifically to serve in Cuba during the Spanish American War. It was thought that due to their being from the deep south, they may be more “immune” to yellow fever (what a comfort is the logic of our Government, but once again, I digress…). His regiment was sent to Cuba where many of the men contracted “Cuban” fever, what I am assuming to be Malaria. At the end of the war, his unit returned to Georgia. 38 men from the unit died from the fever; my great-grandfather contracted the illness but fortunately survived. At the end of the war, his unit was mustered out.
The following year President McKinley appointed him to the rank of Captain (which I am assuming was incentive for him to “re-enlist” in the then volunteer branch of the US Army). He was given command of A Company of the 28th Infantry stationed at Camp Mead in Pennsylvania. His unit was immediately ordered to Payapa, Batagas Island, the Philippines where they were to take command of that particular Island as it had fallen to the control of guerrilla insurgents.
On June 5,1900, Captain Crenshaw led his men, who had been ambushed during a surprise attack by guerilla fighters in the area of Puttol, the Philippines. This was a counter attack in order to quell the entrenched militia, as it seems that one of the trusted local scouts, who was working with the American unit, deceived the Americans leading them into an ambush.
The American forces fought off the attack, with Captain Crenshaw leading the counter attack. Captain Crenshaw had his men take cover but as he rose to lead the charge, his horse being shot out from under him, he was shot in the head. Gravely wounded, he continued leading the battalion until the insurgents were defeated, at which time Capt. Crenshaw lost consciousness. Only two of the men received wounds, with Capt. Crenshaw’s being the gravest.
He was now paralyzed on his left side and blind in one eye and had lost a considerable amount of blood. He was eventually placed on a transport ship for home, but due to rough seas in the South China Sea, the ship had to head to a Chinese harbor to wait out the storms. Capt. Crenshaw reported of the deplorable conditions, while aboard the ship, to which he was subjected. He had received no proper medical care, no surgeries but rather placed in the cargo hold in the engine room with the men who were held there as having been labeled as “insane”. Being paralyzed and in considerable pain, he was unable to care for himself.
Once docked in China, he again did not receive adequate medical attention. All most 2.5 months after being shot in the head, with the bullet still lodged in his skull, both blind and partially paralyzed, the ship eventually docked in San Francisco. Captain Crenshaw’s uncle had made the journey form Georgia to wait on his nephew to arrive and to find him proper medical care. For reasons I do not understand, he did not receive medical attention in San Francisco. He was placed on a train where he made the journey across country and was taken to an Atlanta area hospital for emergency surgery.
Sadly Capt. Crenshaw died on the operating table almost 3 months after having been wounded and not properly cared for, yet while fighting to defend his country’s foreign interests at the time
Captain Crenshaw was only 28 years old. He left a young widow of 24 with 4 small children to raise alone (my grandmother being on of the 4 children).
He is recorded as having been the only non-political figure to have ever lain in state in the rotunda of the State Capital of Georgia. There was a full military train cortege that escorted the body, which was led by General John B. Gordon, taking Capt. Crenshaw from Atlanta to the final destination of LaGrange, Georgia. Upon his death, Captain Crenshaw was awarded the title of both Major and Lt. Colonel, as was put forth by the President …an yet he is in an unmarked grave.
The story is a re-cap from the letter I have just sent to the current commander of the 28th Infantry. It seems The Office of Veteran’s Affairs will provide any war veteran, who is currently buried in an unmarked grave, a headstone. I called Washington inquiring into the grave markers but was told I would need to document his years of service or either document his pension. “Are you kidding me? 1900 is a long time ago” hence my letter to the Commander, as well as copies to both of my senators. As I told all of them:
It is my desire to be able to provide a marker for this fallen war hero. It is also my desire to inquire into his being awarded a medal of honor, posthumously, for his service, leadership and eventual ultimate sacrifice for his Country. My father told me that his grandmother, who was 24 at the time of the death of her husband, who was tasked with raising the 4 children alone, had to actually sue the US Government in order to receive his pension.
So as you can see, I have a mystery and a mission.
Maybe this all matters so much to me because I am adopted (see, I keep telling you, it all goes back to the adoption) and the concept of “family” is of keen importance to me. Maybe it’s because this family of mine is disappearing—only my dad and his two cousins remain of this once older numerous clan—I sadly feel time is not on my side. Dad can’t even remember from day to day what I keep telling him about all of this.
And maybe, just maybe, this all matters so much to me because this was a young man, not even 30, who gave his life for his country who left behind a young 24 year old wife who had to raise 4 small children all alone–with only 3 surviving to adulthood. His widow never remarried as she considered marriage to be so sacred that it was a one time deal– how I admire that commitment.
It was this young soldier, not so different from today’s soldiers, who was a leader of a band of men who fought so very far away from home, the furtherest fighting of any American soldier to date as we had yet to be involved in either World War. It is this now forgotten wartime hero who was laid to rest in an unmarked grave exactly 113 years ago today who I now owe…as I owe him, his wife, his children (my grandmother) the decency of the proper recognition for his sacrifice to this country.
I’ll keep you posted on my progress.